So I’ve had this fantasy conspiracy theory for a while now. It goes something like this:
At some manga awards banquet or event, a group of editors got drunk together and had an argument about which of their manga-ka had the most successful series. After not being able to come to an agreement a challenge was issued. Who can write the best manga given a set of criteria?
1. The story has to contain a red haired princess.
2. At some point she has to cut off her hair.
3. She must be accompanied by a prince.
The winner would be the manga that sold the most copies.
Of course, I said it’s a fantasy because that’s not what happened. It would be more believable if they all started running around the same time, but they didn’t. Then there’s the fact that two of the series are the same publisher, so that disqualifies my theory, too. However, it is somewhat quirky how a few of the more popular mangaka in shoujo are writing a story with those 3 criteria. So which series am I referring to?
This first series we’re getting in English from Viz media. We’re up to 12 volumes now while the series is complete at 13. Reimei no Arcana was serialized in Shogakukan’s Cheese! magazine from 2009 to 2013.
Red-Haired Princess Nakaba stars in this fantasy shoujo about politics, magic, and romance. Looked down upon for her red hair Nakaba is raised secluded from everyone except for Loki, an Ajin (part-human part-animal) who saved her from slaughter and serves by her side. She is married off to Prince Caesar, son of her county’s rival King Belquat in order to forge a peace alliance between Senan and Belquat. Nakaba deems it a matter of time before she is cast away by Belquat or murdered. When the King of Belquat orders her to dye her hair black in order to not embarrass the Belquat monarchy, Nakaba refuses and cuts her hair off herself with Loki’s sword. Prince Caesar comes to love Nakaba and the two work towards bringing peace between their nations and the human and Ajin populations.
Akatsuki no Yona is written and drawn by Mizuho Kusanagi, whose works Mugen Spiral and NG Life were published by Tokyopop here in North America. The series runs in Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume magazine and is at 14 volumes in Japan. Studio Periot has announced that they are adapting it into an anime.
Akatsuki no Yona is a fantasy historical manga starring red-haired Princess Yona and her harem of eclectic companions. When Yona’s father is murdered by her cousin Son Woo, a prince of her kingdom, in order to take over her country’s reign, she barely escapes with the help of her childhood friend Son Hak, a top ranked military commander. Through their encounters and travails Yona comes to realize how sheltered and pampered she was as a princess. Hak and Yona are eventually tracked down by the general of the Fire Tribe, and Hak must take on a group of 50 soldiers in order to rescue Yona. Hak is injured for her sake in battle and Yona decides to fight back. She is captured by a soldier by her hair, and she grabs his sword and chops off her red hair in order to escape him and rescue Hak. As the two continue to evade capture, they continue on their journey where they encounter others from elemental tribes that assist Yona on her quest to overthrow her cousin and take back her throne.
Akagami no Shirayukihime is written and drawn by Sorata Akizuki. This is her only continuous serialization since her debut in 2003 – all her other works have been one-shots or short stories. Akagami no Shirayukihime is serialized in Hakusensha’s LaLa magazine and has been running since 2006.
Akagami no Shirayukihime is also a fantasy shoujo manga starring Shirayuki, a common village girl who runs her grandparents’ apothecary shop. Prince Raji of her country Tanbarun declares he wants Shirayuki as his concubine because of her uncommon red hair. In order to escape becoming his concubine, Shirayuki cuts off her hair and flees into the neighboring forest. While in the forest she encounters, Zen who is traveling with his companions. She heals a wound Zen has and shortly after receives a gift basket of apples from Prince Raji’s messenger. When Zen bites an apple and collapses from poison, Shirayuki, Zen and his companions, Kiki and Mitsuhide, must travel to the palace of Prince Raji for an antidote. It is there that Shirayuki learns Zen’s true identity. With Zen’s help Shirayuki can leave Tanbarun and walk a path that she chooses for herself. As the story continues Shirayuki and Zen’s fates continue to intertwine.
Shirayuki is not a princess at the beginning of the story, but my prediction is that she will become one by the end of the series.
So there you have it! Three series by different mangaka that all have similar elements. I know my conspiracy theory is wrong, but I do wonder how these three serializations ended up with such similar plot points. Since Akagami no Shirayukihime started first and became more popular as it continued, I would have to declare it as the original. Maybe editors decided since it did so well, we’ll have this mangaka and that mangaka try to write a series with those elements as well? I’ll never know. But it sure is fun to speculate, yea? What do you think?